Decision Support for Sustained Competitiveness

Big Ideas Elements

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This diagram shows the decision-support cycle for sustained competitiveness. The cycle involves four key dynamic approaches: understand the context, envisage possible futures, identify feasible responses, and promote localised learning. These four approaches are highly interrelated and designed to be flexible enough to facilitate strategic planning. As a whole, they are used as participatory approaches to ensure ownership and commitment from key personnel of a company.

Understand the context

  • Reveal how a firm has developed to date by examining its evolution in detail
  • Understand local players and rules
  • Recognise unique opportunities

This component seeks to understand the business context, in which the firm operates. One approach focuses on tracing the historical development of the firm (as shown here in the vignettes taken from a selection of our case studies) and understanding how strategic options have been shaped or constrained in terms of path dependency. The result will help the firm recognise future business opportunities. The firm also needs to understand local players and rules within specific business contexts (i.e. specialist sectors or geographical locations) in order to become embedded in localised markets. As a result, the firm will be able to recognise and secure unique opportunities that are not accessible to others. This analysis can uncover previously taken for granted issues and raise awareness of how the firm has been shaped over time. This explicit activity sets the scene for utilising futures techniques in order to systematically explore varied potential futures, and to extend thinking beyond the here and now.

Envisage possible futures

  • Interrogate existing future industry scenarios
  • Identify and discuss key issues, drivers and trends for the sector
  • Identify influences and develop scenarios specific to the organisation

This component offers the opportunity to explore key issues, drivers and themes which have been identified through reviewing an extensive range of construction industry futures reports, and in conjunction with extensive construction industry stakeholder engagement during futures workshops. In this way those dimensions judged of particular relevance to the firm can be identified, their significance investigated and implications discussed. A set of organisation specific tailored scenarios of potential futures can then be produced, for example, see our work with the ECI Industry Futures Task Force. Find out more about our recommended method of identifying alternative futures here; or, to read a more in depth and technical explanation of the analysis of causal maps. These futures techniques provide the platform to challenge existing ways of thinking and open up the way to explore unanticipated consequences.

Identify feasible responses

  • Identify potential activities
  • Rehearse possible outcomes
  • Review and select favourable courses of action

This component seeks to identify potential responses to the tailored industry future scenarios, based upon the existing and required capabilities of the firm. Using existing components and participative techniques, dynamic models of a firm's capabilities are generated. These models are then used to simulate and rehearse the range of potential responses to tailored scenarios in order to understand how these might play out over time. This provides an insight into which options might be the most suitable together with their possible consequences, which can be taken forward into strategic planning.

Promote localised learning

  • Recognise social networks
  • Develop a collective learning process with stakeholders
  • Recognise distinctive capabilities

This component aims to promote a continuous process of localised learning. Recognising social networks among the entire supply chain is essential in order to develop close relational ties with local clients, specialist consultants, and suppliers. A particular emphasis is given to the need to develop collective learning with relevant stakeholders in order to learn and develop appropriate operations for specific sectors or local markets. The firm should bear in mind that distinctive capabilities are not rooted solely within the firm, but are spread across networks of relational ties. Also, such distinctive capabilities are difficult to imitate by competitors, thus enable the firm to sustain its competitiveness. Firms therefore need to initiate identified actions to support the development of the identified required capabilities. This needs the active engagement of key stakeholders to ensure successful outcomes.

The power of our research output lies in the way it recognises that unique businesses require unique capabilities. It offers a potent framework to ensuring that strategy is a participative endeavour in shaping an organisation's future.